CHAMPIONING YOUNG people’s mental health and wellbeing through poetry at a time of great political uncertainty is the mission of London’s new Young People’s Laureate, who will be unveiled today (Apr 17) at City Hall.
Award-winning poet Theresa Lola, who in April 2018 was commissioned by the Mayor of London’s Office to create and read a poem alongside Sadiq Khan at the unveiling of Millicent Fawcett’s statue at Parliament Square, has been described as a “bold and surprising” artist.
Of her new appointment, Lola said: “I am delighted to be Spread the Word’s Young People’s Laureate for London. I hope to use this role to encourage young people to creatively engage in conversations about our wellbeing and mental health, to celebrate what self-care means to us and the things that give us hope as young Londoners.
“We will explore how to use poetry to communicate the impact that experiences such as school, social media and the workplace have on our mental health. In times of crisis, poetry is a healthy outlet that young people can use to voice their feelings.”
Lola will work closely with Spread the Word, London’s leading writer development agency, for a year with placements on four youth-focused residencies across the capital, including at St Paul’s Cathedral. The 24-year-old from Bromley, Greater London, will receive a range of mentoring and poetry-development opportunities to enhance her career progression.
She will also co-host a special development project for talented young London poets called The Young People’s PoetryLab, which last year worked with 21 emerging artists.
Ruth Harrison, Spread the Word’s Director, said: “At a time of political uncertainty, where young people’s lives, concerns and aspirations are often ignored and dismissed, it is vital that their voices are heard by those in power.
“This is why Theresa Lola is a fantastic choice for Young People’s Laureate. Her poetry is bold, surprising and full of dazzling and unexpected images. Theresa is unafraid to explore difficult subjects and with her talent and commitment to opening up conversations with young people, she brings to the role a real sense of purpose.”
Lola was selected by a nomination panel, including arts bodies, such as The Roundhouse, Apples and Snakes, Barbican, National Poetry Library, Southbank Centre and the Poetry Society.
The judging panel, featuring poets Jacob Sam-La Rose and Joelle Taylor, once again noted the incredibly high level of talented poets creating work in the capital.
Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, said: “I’m delighted that Theresa Lola has been chosen as the next Young People’s Laureate for London. This is an important role that gives young Londoners a voice and, having seen the power of Theresa’s poetry, I know her emotive work will both inspire and unite.“
Presenters at today’s announcement of the new Young People’s Laureate for London include Rishi Dastidar, poet and Chair of Trustees at Spread the Word, as well as a reading by outgoing laureate Momtaza Mehri who will perform work created during her tenure. Theresa Lola will then begin her term with an exclusive performance to the invited audience from across the arts and poetry world.
During her year-long laureateship, Lola will work with young people across London, including collaborating with them on a specially commissioned poem for the capital with plans to launch a city-wide regional campaign, which will be announced in the summer.